First construction phase of the Supreme Court of the Netherlands
This morning in The Hague, a Supreme Court committee together with the project consortium representatives, officially announced the inception of the first construction phase of the new Supreme Court of the Netherlands building designed by KAAN Architecten.
A full on-site reportage by Dutch photographer Dominique Panhuysen followed the beginning of the excavation process, and it will keep following in the next months all the different construction phases of the new building.
On 20 October, Kees Kaan is participating in the ‘Typology Talks: Learning Landscapes’ conference organized by Studio Kempe Thill. Scroll down to find out how to participate!
Teaching and research in higher education are currently subject to profound social and educational change. Globalisation, digital work, the rapid development of new technologies, international competitive pressure between universities and the qualities of university locations are just a few aspects that play a decisive role in this. In their first academic year as professors at Leibniz University Hannover, André Kempe and Oliver Thill deal with the radically changing conditions in the educational landscape. What influence do factors such as the particular ideal of social education, the context and location or the spatial and typological organisation of the objects have on their success or failure?
Photograph by Simone Bossi
The “Learning Landscapes” conference questions the typology of buildings for education and explores the possibility of an optimal building organisation, internal logistics, spatial backbone, flexible structure, compactness and energy performance. Considering his experience in architectural practice and academia, Kees Kaan will offer his views on the evolving learning landscapes both as an architect and a teacher. He will be joined by Piet Eckert (E2A Architects), Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara (Grafton Architects).
Tune in on 20 October, 15.30 h, when the conference will be streamed on the YouTube channel of the LUH Faculty of Architecture and Landscape.
We are proud to introduce CIRCLE – a construction module based on an optimized concrete shell developed in collaboration with Casco Totaal and ABT. The concept will be introduced at the PREFAB fair from 12 to 14 October, Brabanthallen, Den Bosch.
CIRCLE combines good design, smart construction and efficient operation. It offers a robust and quickly realizable solution to the increasing demand for smaller and flexible homes with high quality, circularity at all levels, shorter construction time and lower costs.
Its optimized 3D-Concrete Shell® of 35 square metres is made in an industrial production environment that ensures high quality. Each module has standardized openings for installations and circulation which allows units to be coupled horizontally or stacked vertically. Rapid realization and just-in-time delivery of the modules significantly shorten the construction process and allow for up to 20% lower construction costs. Integral design and prefabrication ensure standardization and therefore less waste. In addition, the standardized module enables high-quality reuse of its parts due to the separation of construction, finishing and installations. The concrete is 100% recyclable. Come find out more at the PREFABfair!
We are delighted to introduce the short film ‘Dynamo’, now freely available worldwide on the MINUTES web platform. This film marks the sixth release for the series, consisting of 12 short movies directed by international filmmakers and portraying a selection of projects by KAAN Architecten.
Directed by Katja Verheul, ‘Dynamo‘ weaves a mysterious tale of a creature wandering around the empty CUBEat the Tilburg University inspired by a local anecdote of a puma sighting in the forest.
Nothing can stay hidden in a completely transparent building, so we occasionally catch glimpses of the creature’s body in reflections on the windows or captured on security cameras. But what are we watching? Or rather, who is watching whom?
In case you missed it: the video from the event ‘Building Stories – Architecture on Film‘ is available to watch in full. Organized in collaboration with Pakhuis de Zwijger the event was dedicated to screening a curated selection of projects from the MINUTES film series.
In ‘Making of KAAN’, we uncover the stories behind some of our most known projects as told by the designers who worked on them. Through personal anecdotes and lessons learned, meet the team that makes KAAN Architecten. We spoke to Marco Lanna, project leader of the Amsterdam Courthouse. He tells us about the collaborative design process in DBFMO contracts, context-aware building and embedded sustainability. Read more below!
The Amsterdam Courthouse is another high-security institutional building designed and built by our office over the past 20 years. In fact, I looked it up – the Courthouse project began around the time we finished the Supreme Court in The Hague, which you also worked on.
Was there a transference of knowledge gained in the Supreme Court and applied to the Courthouse? Perhaps certain elements the two buildings had in common?
Although similar in the program, the Supreme Court in The Hague and the Amsterdam Courthouse have some differences. While the former is a tendentially closed building, only open to selected visitors under specific circumstances, Amsterdam Courthouse is a fully public institution. The urban settlement of both designs is also very different. The Supreme Court reacts to a consolidated urban structure – the historical city centre of The Hague. At the same time, the Courthouse is located in an extraordinary area of Amsterdam South, where three urban plans crucial to the city’s growth have exercised their influence. Our building reacts to this rich history and its truly public character by opening up to the surroundings.
L: Supreme Court of the Netherlands, R: Amsterdam Courthouse Photograph by Fernando Guerra FG+SG
In French, they have an excellent name for a Courthouse: cité judiciaire. This expresses our goal for the design: a building that continues the city public space. The result is a building that serves its purpose – that of showing the process of justice, visually accessible but still authoritative, imposing in the right measure. Making room for the large public square generated pressure on the programme organisation inside and was reflected in the complex engineering of some parts. Therefore, the functional and logistical challenges of the Amsterdam Courthouse have also been much more demanding than the ones of the Supreme Court.
However, we can find many similarities between the two projects. In both, we see a very high building quality, coming from the choice of durable materials, carefully detailed and well-assembled. In fact, both buildings are conceived under a DBFMO (Design, Build, Finance, Maintain, Operate) contract. In this type of contract, the architect works in a consortium with engineers, a construction company (and its subcontractors) and a facility management party on the design from its early stages. Their expertise is conveniently reflected in the design, which results in a robust, highly qualitative building made to stay.
Indeed, we often describe the Courthouse as a future-proof building with embedded sustainability. Can you reflect on that? Did the collaborative process enable this?
When signing a DBFMO contract, both the client and the appointed consortium enter a mutual commitment for 30 years, which involves a delicate repartition of costs in case of future transformations or adaptations. This situation forces both parties to prevent extra costs beforehand. On the client’s side, occupants and users are intensively stimulated to reflect on foreseeable changes to their primary functional process, which would require an adaptation of the spaces. Envisaged transformations are then included in the project specifications as a requirement. On the designer’s and contractor’s side, there is interest in minimising the costs for replacing or maintaining materials and installations, which would be necessary to avoid penalties.
Hence, combining both parties’ interests results in efficient and flexible layouts based on modularity for the predictable changes and additional reservations for the less foreseeable ones. In combination with state-of-the-art, technical solutions, this results in a building that needs virtually no heavy maintenance over a long time. We have learned to call that “embedded sustainability” – a concept that spans way beyond the mainstream sustainability features.
Photograph by Dominique Panhuysen
In light of this, one could reconsider some elements of the flashy greenwashed sustainability. I am highly conscious of the opportunity and responsibility that the building industry is taking up by broadcasting a “green” future. Our world needs a change and whatever moves in that direction is good. However, a lot of this greenwash is still too experimental or fragile. Take wood as an example: it needs more treatments and is subject to replacement much, much earlier than natural stone. Greenwash is a trend that very much tunes on the needs of today, but a courthouse should be timeless and designed in a way that preserves its image unchanged over time.
Suppose we analyse the energy demand throughout a building’s lifespan, including its construction, transformations, demolition or dismantling. In that case, we see that most energy demand is in the first and the last phase, where the transportation of materials, disposal of debris and the use of building facilities require energy. So the best way of thinking of an energy-neutral building is to make one that lasts as long as it can. This is not just a matter of engineering. For a building to last long, it must gain social recognition and relevance in the community of its users.
Photograph by Sebastian van Damme
This is precisely what happened with the amazing sculpture Love and Generosity by Nicole Eisenmann on the forecourt. The press coverage for it has been probably higher than the building’s itself. Lately, when I pass by the Courthouse, there is always a professional photographer shooting the sculpture. Secondly, there is a group of skaters and BMX-ers who enjoy the ramps and benches of the square. Once I talked to them for a bit, and they told me an incredible story. In the beginning, they were shooed upon their arrival. But then, someone I later learned was a Courthouse representative – visited a local skate guru who addresses the rest of the skating community. Together they established some ground rules; for example, no grease allowed on the benches to preserve the lawyers’ suits. And from that moment on, skaters were welcome again.
A genuinely public building represents the institution’s authority while opening up to the community; it involves art in creating symbols that enrich the narrative and give a sense of belonging.
The construction phase of such a building must have been quite a venture. Can you walk us through some of the challenges you faced there and how you, eventually, dealt with them?
In Italian, there’s a beautiful, old word: sprezzatura. It refers to something that looks easy and obvious but conceals a great deal of engineering. I like to think of this building as an example of it.
When I looked back at the design documents of the first dialogue phases, before a contractor joined our consortium, I realised that the building had the same programme organisation, massing, façade design, and type of natural stone already 6 weeks after the start of the design! We knew by intuition from the very beginning that this was the right model AND the right design. The rest of the process has been a long journey of engineering and fine-tuning. We benefited from the expertise of the engineers, the facility management company, the main contractor, and the subcontractors. The peculiar organisation of a DBFMO design process confronts the designer early on with the need for solutions to design challenges that minimise risks.
Photograph by Dominique Panhuysen
I like to mention the design of the façade as an example. We wanted the columns to be as thin as possible since the building concept is about showcasing the use behind the envelope and not making it carry its own significance, as most buildings on the Zuidas do. At the same time, the façade line in the foyers needed to be flat to prevent people from hiding behind a column which implied putting them outside the glass line – structural profiles inside the metal case, wrapped with insulation. This required consideration of all kinds of challenges early on: production and montage tolerances of the steel parts, sufficient exposure of the structural profiles to the inner temperature to prevent deformations, montage sequence and agreements on the position and size of seams, bolts, welding… These are things you usually deal with during construction. In this case, they were anticipated into the design process by putting the façade contractor, steel supplier, main contractor, structural engineer, building physics engineer, and the architect around one table. Only after two lifesize mock-ups and conceiving numerous innovative engineering methods for steel production everyone had enough confidence that the designed solutions were valid enough.
Photograph by Dominique Panhuysen
Circling back to the thread of knowledge transference – what are the main takeaways from the Courthouse for you? What do you see being embedded in our next projects?
There are multiple takeaways from this project. In my opinion, the most important one is the power of narrative in the design process. As strong and right architect’s intuition can be, there are moments in the design process where hundreds of other people operate very far from the main concept source. How do you make sure everyone moves in the same direction?
Photograph by Dominique Panhuysen
The architect’s authority is essential when exercised constructively and inclusively, as it creates a sphere of trust from which everyone benefits. But this alone isn’t sufficient. We had to respond many times to our own question: what is this building about? We like to work with presentations featuring infographics, a graphic language that can’t be misinterpreted. By constantly referring to the founding ingredients of our story, as communicated to the client and our whole team, we kept a screenplay to which new ingredients would add up in time as the original core values evolved. In the same fashion, all design choices we needed to make, even and especially when in contrast to the Program of Requirements, were documented, explaining alternatives and justifying why we considered the chosen option the best one.
Photograph by Dominique Panhuysen
There is also another important takeaway. The DBFMO design process generates the architect’s awareness of the efficacy and appropriateness of the design choices when time is an important factor. Together with experienced facility managers, you get to think early on about matters such as: how big and well connected does the furniture storage need to be if FM has to arrange the layout of a Courtroom in a contractually given time? Where to place a coffee corner considering the natural routing of people through the building so that revenues can be maximised? Or more technically: what is the best compromise to still realise that nice plaster ceiling in the foyer, considering the frequency of maintenance of the installations behind it?
Photographs by Sebastian van Damme and Fernando Guerra FG+SG
We have learned to think this through at an early stage. And the great thing is that so many people in our office had the opportunity to work on this big project – so this knowledge is now widely spread in the office. After all, once you make a building that sets a new standard, you aim at no less for your next project!
Marco Lanna is one of the Managing Architects of KAAN Architecten with extensive experience in developing and managing complex building projects such as the Amsterdam Courthouse and Supreme Court of the Netherlands.
Interview by Valentina Bencic. The original text was edited for clarity and brevity.
On Tuesday, 28 September 2021 at 20.00, Pakhuis de Zwijger will host a MINUTES event titled ‘Building Stories – Architecture on Film’. See you there!
During the event at Pakhuis de Zwijger, a curated selection of 2 films and a performance from the MINUTESseries will be screened. The event will be a hybrid between a screening and a talk followed by live and online audiences.
This period of intense uncertainty inevitably led us to reflect on our lives and the physical (or symbolic) space we occupy in our environment and society. The three selected projects reflect on the ‘meaning of being’, metaphorically touching the topics of birth, death and immortality.
It emerges through the forces of creation (Craftedby Benitha Vlok), the acceptance of mortality (Staticby Spirit of Space) or possible immortality (Notes on an Immortal Being by Jaime Levinas). Building stories will explore this conceptual fil-rouge crossing over the 3 projects while discussing the potential of intertwining cinema, architecture and other creative practices.
The talk-screening Building Stories will be moderated by Dana Linssen, a film critic and writer. During the evening, 3 works from the MINUTES series will be presented by Benitha Vlok(via Zoom), Spirit of Space and Jaime Levinas, introducing his upcoming expanded cinema project ‘Notes on an Immortal Being’ with a performance. Besides them, KAAN Architecten founder and associated partner Dikkie Scipio and Martina Margini, MINUTES film series curator, will also participate in the discussion.
To explore the MINUTESproject, visit the project website.
The Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp has been closed for renovation and extension for ten years and will finally open its doors to the public. Scroll down to find out when!
The fully renovated and extended museum will open its doors to the public in just under a year, on 25 September 2022! The long-awaited opening of Antwerp’s landmark museum was announced with a festive moment this weekend in the presence of Jan Jambon, Minister-President of the Flemish Government and Flemish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Culture, Digitization and Facility Management and Luk Lemmens, chairman of KMSKA board of directors.
Photograph by Stijn Bollaert
The museum will welcome the visitors by exhibiting the highlights of its collection as well as new modern pieces in the additional 40% more exhibition space due to the extension by KAAN Architecten. Explore the full project on our website. For more updates, stay in touch with KMSKA here!
In ‘Making of KAAN’, we uncover the stories behind some of our most known projects as told by the designers who worked on them. Through personal anecdotes and lessons learned, meet the team that makes KAAN Architecten. For the first edition, we spoke to Walter Hoogerwerf, the project leader on the renovation and extension of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp. Find out how this process shaped him as an architect and his favourite memory of the project!
The process of renovating and extending KMSKA has been at the same time delicate and respectful to the old building but in other parts quite radical when it came to building up the extension. How did you navigate between the two approaches?
Interesting topic. First of all, I’ve never considered it as two different approaches. For me, it is one project where every part was worked on with the same delicacy, attention, respect and, indeed, radicality. Although the monument required more time researching on-site, working with the unknown and dealing with surprises to get, for instance, the same level of integrated details we designed on paper in the new extension.
In our vision, the new spaces are a completely different world with new experiences and possibilities, set apart from the monumental spaces. Therefore, the materiality of the two also required a big focus on contrast. In the monument, we searched for the artisan, the craftsman’s hands, the oak and the wax, the age and the wear, the scale and the weight. At a certain point, I had to explain to the plasterer not to make the walls too smooth, the parquet installers not to close the gaps, things like that. Beautiful but not perfect, matching the monument. Smooth straight surfaces were for the new museum. A similar thing about the paintworks; no perfect spray in the monument but visible brushstrokes. Even on the ceilings.
L: Karin Borghouts, R: Toon Grobet
The abstract immaterial spaces of the new museum had the same attention to materiality. Choice of paint, delicate PU floor with depth, floor boxes in marble and messing, infamous zero-point details, immaculate skylight, those kinds of things. No visible marks of the craftsmen, of the effort, of the engineering, but even more necessary so.
We were also quite radical in the monument to resuscitate it; no small changes were made. The colours, for example, are a far cry from what they were; we’ve even inverted the wall-ceiling contrasts. Most colours were not exactly what we measured but were made more saturated, some colours darker, some colours acting as an intermediate. All decided after applying test surfaces.
KAAN Architecten archive
Radical breaches in the monument were necessary to give the new museum its hidden routing possibilities. On the other hand, the new building, where the installations were built in two technical towers and main air distribution filled an entire floor, serves as an infuse for the monument delivering air, heat and cooling. The new and the old need each other; they rely on each other functionally, technically and materially. That is why it is one project and not a monument with an extension.
The project itself took around 17 years, from conception to finish. The conditions for which it has been designed and in which it will continue to live have changed during that time – how do you keep a design relevant to conditions in flux?
This is a situation that is a reality we are facing in almost every project, although in different proportions. 17 years is a lot, but it took a good 6 years of contracts, master planning and budget finding before the design work could start. We had a good concept, widely supported, strong enough, but not too determined, able to remain all those years: hidden new museum built up within the courts of a revived and freed monument. We could keep using it as a starting point with every new development, enhance it and improve it. We fitted new developments within this framework, and under our control, we kept the consistency in the project.
L: Karin Borghouts, R: Stijn Bollaert
What iterations and changes did you have to make?
One example of this is the redesign of the public facilities with a more generous restaurant, shop and receptions facilities. In the design of phase 2, the budget had to be focused on exposing and preserving the art and the monument for the community. Public facilities, or more precisely, commercial facilities, had to be modest. In 2017 KMSKA changed from a government agency to a non-profit organisation, with more autonomy on finance and development. At the same time, the expected visitor numbers had increased. These conditions made possible, and for KMSKA necessary, a redesign of the public facilities. We could stay within our defined public zone at the front of the building. In fact, extra square metres were found by moving the library office to the back of the building. This way, the entire front became public, and the library reading room became more prominent, with event possibilities.
Most importantly, we had the commissions for all the major phases and disciplines in my team; phase 1, phase 2, security, public facilities, offices and ateliers. This allowed for all these parts to be as consistent as a project can be. With other parts, the ones out of our control, the consistency is not self-evident.
I can only assume this is the longest-running project in your career, and as such, it must have shaped you as an architect – what are the lessons you learned along the way?
It definitely shaped me as an architect. I’m in my 12th year on the project now with one more to go, and I must say it is hard to imagine not working on it. I’ve got the chance to work on it from the start of the preliminary design, from the first phase all the way up to the delivery of the final phase. I was always very aware of how rare that is, but also that I wouldn’t want it any other way.
I learned how vulnerable a project is in this kind of long process. Everything could have and did, in fact, happen. Imagine changing four ministers of culture and three museum directors, new personnel in our design teams, the client’s team and the KMSKA team. Also, imagine working without a set budget and programme at the start. At a certain point, you become the guardian of the project, and I liked that. I noticed recently that it is hard to let that go.
Another thing is the importance of investments in personal contacts. Not only to make sure the mutual understanding is enduring but also to build what we’ve envisioned. I realise that what we designed is in many ways quite out of the ordinary and needs enthusiastic collaboration to get built. Together.
L: Karin Borghouts, R: Sebastian van Damme
Then there’s bound to be many interesting stories from such a long collaboration. Does any particular story or anecdote stand out?
There are so many, but one that is very dear to me is about colours. Halfway through the construction, doubts were raised about the colours of the museum spaces by someone external to the design process (see my previous point about vulnerability). There was a big debate about our design with the clear white, night blue and saturated dark reds, greens and browns instead of their suggestion to make everything light grey. Indeed, everything in light grey – walls, ceilings and wherever possible, also the floors.
Our approach to clarify this situation for everyone involved was to prepare for a meeting meticulously. We built up a clear argument and made a presentation that outlined our design’s intentions and results compared to the light grey one step by step, from the generic to the specific, with the projected artwork and big colour samples. All this without judgement, relying very much on the quality of our intent. At that time, the most precious artworks of the KMSKA collection were exhibited in an early 17th century premises in Antwerp: Rockox House. We proposed to meet there, among the art, to make the subject tangible and, most importantly, to prevent a theoretical discussion. A new context can be an eye-opener.
This meeting cleared up the subject very well for everyone, as you can see in the built result. To drive the point home, we took the colour samples to the paintings. There I was holding a large NCS 4550-Y90R sample right next to Fouquet’s Madonna surrounded by seraphim and cherubim from 1456. We showed the wall colour samples next to different paintings and got the KMSKA team of art historians assured and even more enthused. In fact, it generated the decision to have another series of rooms, the so-called “salon”, coloured in dark green because it matched better with the artworks planned for those rooms.
L: Karin Borghouts, R: Stijn Bollaert
Many museums ask for rooms as neutral boxes to be filled and coloured by the exposition works. I think that is an unnecessary pity. In KMSKA, we managed to keep the architecture’s coherence, the vision of the monument and the new museum all in harmony with the art. And colour played a more significant role in this than I could have imagined. Our goal for the KMSKA is not only a beautiful, well-built container to experience and preserve the collection, but having the building as a part of the collection, part of the experience with a presence of its own. I’m sure we have achieved this. I can’t wait for the opening.
Walter Hoogerwerf is a project leader at KAAN Architecten currently working on the last phase of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp, as well as the renovation and extension of Paleis Het Loo in Apeldoorn.
Interviewed by Valentina Bencic. Featured image by Stijn Bollaert.
Explore the museum under construction in the video below!
We are delighted to introduce the short film ‘Ruling’, now freely available worldwide on MINUTES web platform.
Directed by Dutch filmmaker Dorian de Rijk, Ruling portrays the imposing Supreme Court of the Netherlands in The Hague. The camera explores the space, choreographing justice procedures and reading the architectural program as if it were a case at the Court. It circulates through different chambers and domains, ending up in the main courtroom.
Ruling investigates the semiotics of power and what it means to rule today. This procedure is translated into an aesthetic gesture that enhances the timeless architecture of the Supreme Court and its design coherency that expresses the innate duality of a court of law – being open and transparent yet safe and secure.
The movie was already exclusively previewed during the 2019 ADFF Short Films Walk: New York and in a joint event with the Architecture Film Festival Rotterdam (AFFR), Galerie de Jaloezie, and Roffa Mon Amour at the 2021 Rotterdam Architecture Month.
This film marks the fifth release for the eponymous series, consisting of 12 short movies directed by international filmmakers and portraying a selection of projects by KAAN Architecten.
Organised by the Fundació Mies van der Rohe with support of the Creative Europe Programme of the European Commission, the Award is dedicated to recognizing and commending excellence in European architecture. The Jury will announce the shortlisted works at the beginning of 2022, while the winners will be announced in April 2022.
Chamber of Trades and Crafts, Hauts-de-France Photograph by Sebastian van Damme
Amsterdam Courthouse Photograph by Fernando Guerra FG+SG
Last week marked the official start of construction on The Stack, a residential complex in Amsterdam’s Overhoeks district, located north of the city centre, along the river IJ.
‘Aan het IJ’ is an area development project by Amvest where KAAN Architecten is designing The Stack – a residential ensemble of two buildings connected with underground parking comprising both owner-occupied and rental apartments. Kondor Wessels Amsterdam will act as the main contractor for the project aiming to complete the construction by the end of 2023.
Besides KAAN Architecten’s The Stack, ‘Aan het IJ’ includes projects designed by Orange Architects, KCAP, De Zwarte Hond, Powerhouse and Studioninedots.